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The 2021 Riding the Digital Wave Summit: Celebrating the birth of Computer Science in Australia

The Refectory – The University of Sydney and Online
Thursday 30 September 2021; 9:00am – 5:00pm AEST

The Pearcey Foundation invites you to participate in a national landmark event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first computer conference held in Australia! The Riding the Digital Wave Summit will take us back to the birth of computer science as a discipline and profession in its own right, looking at some of the early developments and where they have led us today. How has digital technology optimised our energy future? Forecast the weather? Delivered Government services?

Join us at the Summit as we explore past, present and future themes around human computer interaction; the impact of automation on jobs and industry and how Australia can continue to ride the digital wave to ensure our future resilience.

Speakers Include:


  • Early bird (until 31 August 2021): $198
  • Standard: $297
  • Virtual: $55


On 7-9 August 1951, the first computer conference in Australia, and one of the earliest in the world, was held in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Sydney, and jointly convened by the Department (through Professor David Myers) and the CSIRO Department of Radiophysics (through Trevor Pearcey).

It was a very significant event in Australian computing history, and amongst its 186 attendees were many who would go on to become significant players in the Australian computer industry. The attendees were from universities, government departments, and industrial and commercial organisations from all Australian states. 13 of the attendees from CSIRO were human computers — women. Although only a total of 16 women were in attendance at the conference, their presence acknowledged the beginning of the recognition of women to computing.

Professor Douglas Hartree from Cambridge University, who was the international guest speaker, delivered the opening papers at the conference. Prof. Hartree was a leading authority on mechanical computation — he built the first differential analyser in England in the 1930s and opened the first English computing conference in 1949.

The conference was intended to introduce participants to the new developments in computing and programming techniques, and was an opportunity to display equipment — including CSIRAC. First named CSIR Mark 1, it was the fourth stored-program computer in the world and was built by Trevor Pearcey, Maston Beard and their team at the Division of Radiophysics. This new high-speed digital computer was demonstrated for the first time at the conference, and it even played music!

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of this key milestone, Pearcey Foundation’s Dr. Peter Thorne is leading a passionate and expert program advisory committee comprising of David Abramson (Director, Research Computing Centre, University of Queensland), Barbara Ainsworth (Curator, Monash University Museum of Computing History), Bob Kummerfeld (Associate Professor, Computer Science, University of Sydney) and Liming Zhu (Research Director, Software and Computational Systems, CSIRO’s Data61).


Genevieve Bell
Prof. Genevieve Bell
Director, 3A Institute
Genevieve Bell is the Director of the School of Cybernetics, Director of the 3A Institute, Florence Violet McKenzie Chair, a Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University, and Vice President and Senior Fellow at Intel Corporation. She is a cultural anthropologist who completed her Master at Bryn Mawr College in 1991 and PhD at Stanford University in 1998.

Genevieve is best known for her work at the intersection of cultural practice and technological development. In September 2017, she established 3A Institute at ANU in collaboration with CSIRO’s Data61, with the mission of building a new branch of engineering to effectively and ethically manage the impact of artificial intelligence on humanity through better design and management of technology.

Genevieve is widely-published, holds many patents, and has an immense love of books.

Ian Opperman
Dr. Ian Oppermann
Chief Data Scientist, NSW Government
Ian Oppermann is the NSW Government Chief Data Scientist and Industry Professor at University of Technology Sydney, as well as President of the Australian Computer Society after serving as Vice President — Academic Boards for two years He has a Master of Business Administration from the University of London and a PhD in Mobile Telecommunications from the University of Sydney.

Ian has 27 years of experience in the ICT sector and has led organisations with over 300 people, delivering products and outcomes that have impacted hundreds of millions of people globally. He has held senior management roles in Europe and Australia as Director for Radio Access Performance at Nokia, Global Head of Sales Partnering (network software) at Nokia Siemens Networks, and Divisional Chief and Flagship Director at CSIRO.

Ian is regarded as a thought leader in the area of Digital Economy and is a regular speaker on “Big Data”, broadband enabled services, and the impact of technology on society. He has contributed to 6 books and co-authored more than 120 papers which have been cited over 3500 times.

Jon Whittle
Dr. Jon Whittle
Director, CSIRO’s Data61
Jon Whittle is the Director of CSIRO’s Data61, Australia’s national centre for R&D in data science and digital technologies. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Monash University and was formerly Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology. Jon completed a BA in Mathematics at the University of Oxford in 1994 and his PhD in Artificial Intelligence and Software Engineering at The University of Edinburgh in 1999.

Jon was named CEO Magazine’s 2019 Education Executive of the Year. Prior to joining Data61, he was Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University and is a former Technical Area Lead at NASA, where he worked on software for NASA space missions.

Jon is passionate about the role digital technologies can play in society. He has a world-leading reputation on how to adapt software development methods to fully take into account human values and ethics, so that we build software for a society we want, rather than one we get by accident.


Thank you to the following sponsors
Host Sponsor
Jon Whittle
Heritage Project Sponsors
Jon Whittle
Jon Whittle

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